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Nine things we learned: Forget Jaidyn, Bucks has his finals X-factor

The 10: round 23's best moments A result that sends shockwaves, a nine-goal haul and brute strength in this week's standout plays
1. 'Billy' can be Collingwood's finals X-factor

Jamie Elliott has spent much of this season getting his body up to speed. Having missed all of 2018 with a series of hamstring and ankle problems, you could forgive a quiet patch midway through the year that included four goalless games in six weeks. But now, his production is back to its damaging best. Having kicked five goals from 19 disposals and 10 marks against Adelaide last week, Elliott was again one of Collingwood's chief threats on Friday night against Essendon. A difficult match-up given his size and ability to play tall, Elliott wreaked havoc late as the Pies began to win the territory battle. He finished with three goals from 18 disposals and nine marks, yet could have had more if not for some wayward kicking in front of the target. With Jaidyn Stephenson set to return ahead of September, it will open up more space to isolate Elliott. That can only mean good things for Collingwood's potent forward set-up. - Riley Beveridge

 

 
2. 'Dimma' needs a Lachie Neale plan

Richmond doesn't rely on clearances to win games. But it also doesn't like conceding the type of numbers and influence imparted by Lachie Neale on Sunday at the MCG. The brilliant Brisbane midfielder and Brownlow Medal contender amassed a career-high 51 disposals in the Lions' loss to the Tigers, plus 14 clearances. He was extraordinary, and lifted his side to within seven points of Richmond in an outstanding third term. Richmond coach Damien Hardwick saw first-hand the damage Neale can do to teams, so might have to rework what he does when the sides meet in two weeks at the Gabba in the qualifying final. Does he put on a hard tag from the start? Or send a different option to Neale and work off him the other day? It's a big call that is crucial to the Tigers' finals plans. - Callum Twomey

3. West Coast must shore up a shaky backline

Despite a few regrettable moments that have directly cost goals over the past two weeks, backing in emerging star Tom Barrass is a no-brainer for coach Adam Simpson. It's not as if Barrass, among the best on Grand Final day last year, can't handle the big stage this September. But the Eagles have got their mix wrong over the past two weeks and Barrass and, to a lesser extent, Jeremy McGovern have been caught out. Without lockdown defender Will Schofield, who was unlucky to be dropped after round 21, the Eagles' two key defenders have been caught between stopping their man and 'rolling off' to support and the backline has looked all at sea. Schofield doesn't just restrict the opposition's most dangerous forward, he frees up others to play to their strengths. In the cauldron of finals, that understanding between the three talls, Shannon Hurn, Lewis Jetta, Liam Duggan and Brad Sheppard is invaluable. – Travis King

West Coast defender Tom Barrass endured a tough night against the Hawks. 

4. Not all coaches shy away from hyping their team

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was a justifiably pleased man in Ballarat late on Sunday afternoon, after his team clinched its first finals berth since winning the 2016 premiership. There was a danger in him playing the achievement down, and he did point out that a new season was upon us. However, Beveridge was keen for his players to celebrate reaching the post-season and chuckled at the symmetry of his Bulldogs again starting the finals in seventh place. Most refreshing were his words ahead of September: "We're not limping into this finals series. We're going in with a head of steam … and I think we're going to be hard to beat." Beveridge didn't say they're going to win the premiership, and no one would accuse him of being arrogant. He was just a happy coach speaking honestly about the momentum his side has generated, something that is still too rare. - Marc McGowan

5. The Giants can still do some damage in September

It's hard to read too much into a 12-goal win over the bottom team, but Saturday night's victory was just what Leon Cameron's men needed. Even the coach conceded it was a confidence boost after back-to-back hidings from Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs in the previous fortnight. Above all else though, a few Giants found some form, with Jeremy's Cameron's injury-hit previous month put behind him with nine goals from 15 shots. Josh Kelly got some run in his legs for the first time in five weeks and cashed in with 27 touches and two quality goals. GWS rightfully has its doubters, but with Jacob Hopper and Toby Greene sure to return for an elimination final, and Stephen Coniglio, Brett Deledio and Nick Haynes also in the mix, you'd be brave to tip against them first up. - Michael Whiting

 

6. Narkle deserves chance to sparkle in September

Geelong faces a selection squeeze before its first final but one of the name magnets that should remain on Chris Scott's whiteboard is that of Quinton Narkle. The speedster with the eye-catching blond locks produced an equally eye-catching performance in the Cats' big win over Carlton at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday. The two Cats most responsible for their big half-time lead were superstar Patrick Dangerfield and Narkle, who finished with a career-high 27 possessions (11 contested), eight clearances, five tackles and 1.2 – his goal a superb effort after a bouncing run. After playing six games last year, the 21-year-old had to wait until round 21 for his chance, but he's making up for lost time, averaging 21 touches, five clearances and four tackles and tallying 4.5. - Ben Collins

7. Sydney won't be a September spectator for long

The Swans won't play finals for the first time since 2009 and while they lost 1048 games of experience when Jarrad McVeigh (325), Kieren Jack (256), Heath Grundy (256) and Nick Smith (211) retired, those club greats have helped set an exciting platform for the future. Players like Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, George Hewett, Tom Papley, Tom McCartin, Nick Blakey, Oliver Florent, Jordan Dawson, Will Hayward and Lewis Melican will be charged with taking the Swans into a new era under esteemed co-captains Josh Kennedy, Dane Rampe and Luke Parker, and given the education they've received, they are primed to propel the club back into finals in 2020. With long-term coach John Longmire at the helm, don't expect the Swans' September absence to be an extended one. - Adam Curley

8. It's not fantasy to think Max can be main man

If Max Gawn was your AFL Fantasy captain this weekend, his 154-point haul against North Melbourne might just have propelled you to glory. The All Australian superstar was immense for Melbourne in Hobart, collecting 26 disposals, 10 clearances, 41 hitouts, four contested marks and five inside 50m entries to go with the three set-shot goals that belied his previous battles in front of the big sticks. It’s not total fantasy to think Gawn could step up and assume the real-life captaincy mantle at Melbourne in 2020, particularly considering Simon Goodwin’s effusive praise for his leadership qualities post-match. The Demons – and their fans – clearly need a reboot after a horror season. Gawn’s been through highs and lows in his time as a Demon and might well cement his place as an all-time great if given the chance to lead his club back out of the depths they’ve plumbed this year. - Stu Warren

9. Hard work begins for Dockers ahead of crucial off-season

The Dockers have plenty of big decisions to make both on and off the field in the coming months. Midfielders Ed Langdon and Bradley Hill look to have played their final games for the club in Sunday's loss to Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, with both players tipped to request trades to Victorian clubs. The most pressing call for the Dockers is replacing senior coach Ross Lyon after he was sacked last week, while they also have to fill the chief executive's role after Steve Rosich's departure. It's going to be a busy next couple of months in the west as the Dockers aim to rebuild. - Lee Gaskin

Ed Langdon could be heading to a Victorian club in the off-season. 

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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs